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Pressure Grows For Ohio Speaker To Advance Bill Keeping Foreign Cash Out Of Elections

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A coalition of election integrity groups is demanding Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens advance legislation prohibiting foreign money from backing ballot measures.

“Ohioans deserve elections that are free and fair—not influenced by foreign billionaires allowed to bankroll Left-wing causes at the expense of American citizens,” Heritage Action Director of State Advocacy Catherine Gunsalus said in a statement. “…In a crucial election year with generational ballot measures on the line, the Speaker’s decision to put politics over election integrity is unacceptable. Conservatives will not relent in our calls to get foreign meddling out of every election and protect the votes of all Ohioans.”

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 114 to ensure President Joe Biden will be able to appear on the Buckeye State’s 2024 general election ballot. As The Federalist reported, the office of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter last month notifying state Democrat Party Chair Liz Walters that the Democratic National Convention’s current date is more than a week after the date by which presidential candidates must be certified in Ohio.

LaRose’s office noted that to rectify the issue, the Democratic National Committee must change the date of its nominating convention or Ohio lawmakers must pass legislation “creat[ing] an exception to this statutory requirement” by May 9.

Senate Republicans attempted to score for their own voters, too, as they passed a bill to help rectify Democrats’ scheduling mistake. When the Senate passed HB 114, they added provisions prohibiting foreign nationals from expending funds, including “independent expenditures,” for Ohio ballot measure campaigns.

Foreign donors including Swiss national Hansjörg Wyss, who funnels millions to Democrat dark money groups, would be barred under the measure from making expenditures “advocating support of or opposition to an identified ballot issue or question or to achieve the successful circulation of an initiative or referendum petition in order to place such an issue or question on the ballot.”

After clearing the Senate with unanimous Republican support and all Democrats voting in opposition, HB 114 met a roadblock upon arriving in the House. Speaker Jason Stephens — a Republican who was elected to the position with the help of House Democrats — refused to allow debate on the measure, claiming the bill didn’t have enough support.

The House “informally passed” a measure extending Ohio’s presidential nominating deadline on Wednesday. That bill (Senate Bill 92) does not include provisions prohibiting foreign money from being used in Ohio ballot measure campaigns. Stephens did not respond to The Federalist’s previous request for comment on why he did not permit HB 114 to be considered by the House or whether he believes foreign money should be allowed to be used in Ohio ballot measure campaigns.

In her Friday statement, APT Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland blasted Senate Democrats for trying to kneecap HB 114 and claimed they are “playing high-stakes games with partisan presidential politics.”

“Their opposition to a measure overwhelming[ly] supported by their own constituents is wrong, and Speaker Stephens should act to get foreign interference out of our elections,” Sutherland said.

Honest Elections Project Action Executive Director Jason Snead also called on Stephens to pass HB 114, saying the speaker must decide whether he’s going to “stand with Democrats and their foreign billionaires, or protect Ohio elections from foreign interference.” He noted that Wyss, through his Berger Action Fund, has poured nearly $250 million into the left-wing Sixteen Thirty Fund.

A recent Americans for Public Trust (APT) report revealed the Sixteen Thirty Fund “uses its war chest … to support massive get-out-the-vote drives, issue advocacy campaigns bolstering President Biden’s agenda, liberal pet projects from abortion to immigration, and attack ads against Republican lawmakers.” The group is administered by Arabella Advisors, an advisory for tax-free political spending “that guides the strategy, advocacy, impact investing, and management for high-dollar left-leaning nonprofits and individuals,” according to InfluenceWatch.

Ohio’s campaign finance disclosure portal reportedly shows the Sixteen Thirty Fund dumped $11.5 million into organizations working to enshrine abortion into Ohio’s constitution and defeat a ballot measure raising the threshold to amend the state’s founding document.


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